COUNTDOWN TO 1, RACE ONE: HISTORY MADE AT zMAX DRAGWAY; TOP 10 CHANGE AT CAROLINAS NATIONALS: Three repeat winners, new point leaders in two out of the four professional categories, and a history-making win were just a few of the headlines after an amazing inaugural event at zMAX Dragway @ Concord as the NHRA Carolinas Nationals kicked off the 2008 Countdown to 1 playoffs in front of packed stands. “Fast Jack” Beckman kicked off the first race in the Countdown as he drove his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T past Jim Head, Del Worsham, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon en route to not only his third win of the season, but fifth final-round appearance in the last seven races.
The win also catapulted Beckman from sixth to second place in the POWERade Series point standings. Pedregon’s runner-up finish to Beckman was enough to move him into the top spot in the Funny Car point standings. U.S. Army dragster pilot Tony Schumacher grabbed his 12th win of the season and 53rd win of his career, passing legendary Joe Amato to take the top spot on the all-time wins list in Top Fuel.
Schumacher’s win strengthened his lead over the class, but Matco Tools dragster driver Antron Brown kept his second-place spot in the points with a solid runner-up finish at the event. In Pro Stock, sophomore sensation Justin Humphreys picked up his first Wally after runner-up finisher Kurt Johnson couldn’t fire up his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt on the starting line. Johnson’s runner-up finish was enough for him to take the points lead away from Greg Anderson, who had previously held the lead since Norwalk.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Steve Johnson followed up his Mac Tools U.S. Nationals win with a second Wally for the season, driving his Snap-on Tools/Wyo Tech Suzuki past runner-up Eddie Krawiec after Krawiec fouled out with a red-light start. NitroFish Wear Buell rider Matt Smith was able to keep the lead in the point standings over Johnson with a second-round finish and being the No. 1 qualifier for the event.
For more headlines from this years NHRA Carolinas Nationals, visit www.nhra.com.
FORCE RETURNS TO SCENE OF 2007 CRASH THE SAME WAY HE LEFT—BY AIR AMBULANCE: After nearly four months of physical therapy and a year since that fateful accident that nearly took his life, 14-time POWERade world champion John Force returned to Texas Motorplex the same way he left, in an Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter.
“This ain’t good for me,” Force told those assembled Monday for the event. “I’m a comedy act, usually, (but) it was strange when I got back in (the helicopter); it kind of scared me. The smell, you remember, and the chopper noise. But I also remembered the lady (flight nurse Kim Loflin) that held my hand and told me everything would be all right.”
Force suffered a compound fracture of the left ankle, broken bones in his hands, fingers and toes, and ligament and tendon damage in his right knee in the accident, and underwent seven hours of reconstructive surgery, as well as spending 27 days at Baylor University Medical Center before being released.
KALITTA PRESENTS $50,000 BRAKES DONATION IN THE NAME OF SCOTT KALITTA: NHRA legendary driver and engine tuner, Connie Kalitta, along with Mac Tools dragster pilot Doug Kalitta, presented Doug Herbert a $50,000 check for his charity organization, BRAKES, before Saturday’s third round of qualifying at the NHRA Carolinas Nationals. After the tragic death of Scott Kalitta in a racing crash in Englishtown, the Kalitta family decided to have half of the proceeds from sales of Scott Kalitta tribute merchandise be given to BRAKES.
Sales of Scott Kalitta tribute merchandise are ongoing, and more donations to BRAKES are forthcoming. “Doug and Scott were close friends, and I know it hit Scott really hard when Jon and James were killed just like it hit Doug hard when we lost Scott,” said Kalitta. “By donating the money to BRAKES, we know that Scott would have wanted that to help Doug and his efforts, and this was the best way to make something positive from such tragic losses.”
O’REILLY SUPER START BATTERIES FALL NATIONALS, TEXAS MOTORPLEX, SEPTEMBER 18–21: Making its second stop of the season in the Lone Star State, drivers in all four professional categories will fight it out in the second race of the Countdown to 1. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Peggy Llewellyn (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
O’REILLY NHRA MID-SOUTH NATIONALS, MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK, SEPTEMBER 26–28: The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads to the south for its third stop in the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include Melanie Troxel (Top Fuel); Gary Scelzi (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
VIRGINIA NHRA NATIONALS, VIRGINIA MOTORSPORTS PARK, OCTOBER 10–12: Making its fourth stop in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, the NHRA POWERade Series returns to Petersburg, Virginia. before the final two races of the season. Defending event winners include Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel); Gary Scelzi (Funny Car); and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
NOT THE WAY HE IMAGINED IT: To say that Justin Humphreys is excited about his first NHRA POWERade Series win would be an understatement. But this was far from the way this sophomore driver ever pictured his first win coming. “I wanted Kurt (Johnson) to be in the other lane,” said Humphreys, who won his first event after runner-up Johnson was unable to start up his car at the starting line. “It’s definitely not as exciting when you make a solo run, but I was excited and happy to be in the winner’s circle—a Wally is a Wally and win is a win.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
281, 59, 46, 4: Since the hiring of Alan Johnson as crew chief May 25, 2003, the U.S. Army dragster has compiled 281 round wins, has made 59 final round appearances, won 46 races, and collected four consecutive POWERade world championships, begging the question: Is this the greatest Top Fuel team ever?
DID YOU KNOW…
…that when first built, Texas Motorplex was billed as the first “supertrack” and was the first all-concrete track on the NHRA POWERade Series.